Classic carnival games
The carnival can come to your house as often as you’d like with these easy-to-set-up challenges. Just don’t forget to dole out tickets, which the kids can redeem for cool prizes — the dollar store is a great place to get them.
- Lucky duck: Fill a large bucket with water and floating rubber duckies. Beforehand, paint the bottom of one duck red. Players can take turns trying to find the winning duck. Then mix them up and play again.
- Beanbag toss: Paint a clown face onto a large cardboard box and cut out the mouth. Use a few bricks to prop up the end with the clown’s head and mark a throw line about five feet from the box. Give everyone three beanbags to toss into the clown’s mouth.
- Bowling: Fill six two-liter soda bottles with a few inches of water, replace the cap, and arrange them in a bowling-like triangle. Mark a line ten feet from the first pin and take turns throwing tennis balls at the pins. The object is to knock all the bottles over.
- Shooting range: Stand three shoe boxes up on a table and top them each with a ping-pong ball. Arm your grandkids with water guns and instruct them to knock the ball off with a stream from the gun.
- Darts: Older grandkids will enjoy this game of marksmanship. Use thumbtacks to secure the stems of balloons to a piece of plywood. Prop the board up (against a brick wall, if possible) and take turns throwing darts to pop as many balloons as you can.
- Ring toss: Cut out the centers of plastic-container lids (margarine and take-out containers work well) for your rings. Then bury a few inches of a paper towel roll into the ground so it’s standing straight up. Each person gets three turns to throw their rings onto the stake.
Homemade mini golf
There’s no need to buy anything fancy for this pastime — turn household objects into a wacky golf course. Use heavy plastic cups as the holes and challenge your grandchildren to get the balls (bouncy ones from the dollar store work great) into each hole in as few strokes as possible. Don’t have putters? Improvise with what you have, like using masking tape to affix a large kitchen sponge to a yardstick or broom.
Here are some creative ideas to get you thinking about a course of your own:
- Lay down two or three hula-hoops and fill with sand or mulch to act as a sandtrap. Tip: You can put a trash bag under the Hula-hoop for easy cleanup.
- Fold a large, sturdy piece of cardboard in half. Prop it up for a tent-like tunnel. Cardboard is also great for making walls and ramps, too.
- Turn a few Frisbees upside down, fill them with water, and place them throughout the fairway. For more water fun, set up a sprinkler to douse any golfers who wait too long to take a shot.
- Find a shoebox or an oatmeal box, cut out a semicircle from the front and back and plant it into the ground as a small tunnel.
- Stack old juice boxes into two columns that the ball must pass through, without knocking them over, on the way to the hole.
- Bring all your houseplants outside and set them in the fairway to create a jungle-like atmosphere.
Remember: The more obstacles you have, the more interesting your course will be. If you want to get really crafty, you can decorate the cardboard and bottles with paint, pipe cleaners, glitter — whatever you have around! And don’t forget to print scorecards.
Water park fun
Create your own wet and wild haven without putting up with expensive ticket prices and long lines. You’ll need a few supplies, bathing suits, and, of course, lots of water.
- Cool pools: Pick up three inexpensive plastic baby pools and fill them with water. Make each pool a different kind of fun. Fill one with lots of bubbles from a bottle of kid-friendly bubble bath. Throw all kinds of containers (funnels, spray bottles, Tupperware, and other unbreakable, water-friendly items) into another, and the kids can use them to pour water on one another. If you have a kiddie slide in the backyard, set it up to empty into one of the pools. Use your imagination! Then go from pool to pool and splash it up at each water station.
- DIY slip and slide: Get a heavy plastic tarp from your local hardware store. Find the spot in your yard with some incline, scan it for rocks and sticks, and move any debris out of the way. Once the path is clear, lay the tarp out and spray it down with a hose. Secure the hose at the top so there’s a constant stream of water rushing down and plant sprinklers every few feet for added soaking. Note: Sliding like this is fun and safe for supervised young children, but it is not meant for adults and teens. You stick with operating the hose!
- Water limbo: Grab a hose, turn on the water, and hold your thumb over the opening to make a strong, straight spray of water. Have your grandchildren walk under the water stream, and lower it for each new pass. How low can they go? If it’s not low enough, they’ll get soaked!